My Thoughts. . .
ROME: 90 AD: Persecution is in full swing. Soldier are breaking into home where house churches are assembling. Members are harshly beaten and arrested. Children are adopted by Roman pagan families. The adults are sent to the Coliseum to amuse the paying audience. The lions and tigers are winning 100 to 0 over the Christians. The believers begin assembling underground. The catacombs were dark and permeated with the smell of death from rotting flesh. This discouraged the soldiers from searching there. Christians who were wealthy, poor, black, white, male, female, slave or free met there. Some worked for the government, others were soldiers, business people, men, women, preteen and teenagers. They traveled deep into the stinking underground cemetery so their singing, prayers, and voices would not be heard. Small candles were lit to provide some light. When their meeting was over, each left in very small numbers so no one would notice. Caution was tantamount. Discovery meant death.
Teens nor preteens filled their hour or two playing games on slated boards. Small talk surrendered to each encouraging the other. They stood for an hour or two without complaint. The scent that burned their nostrils, discomfort from the dampness and inconvenience was accepted as a haven of safety from discovery. One attendee did complain that by so meeting, they were advertising to all pagans and the Roman government that they were ashamed of Jesus. He remarked that if discovery and death was the results, if was better to die a martyr than be a cowardly Christian. He later got his wish but found himself witnessing to a hungry tiger while a pagan audience roared out their approval of his martyrdom. The kingdom is made up of all kinds of sinning believers and each has his opinion! An opinion is a commodity they may be discarded or kept by the one who creates it.
Not every Christian slave who attended had a believing owner. They were abused physically and sexually. They had heard Peter’s admonition and complied (1 Peter 2:18-21). They received encouragement and prayers from other saints during those assemblies. Despite their wounds and terrible experiences, they edified rather than complained. It was mutual edification. Here, in this darkened, smelly place each shed his or her societal status and stood as one in Christ. They were there to share God’s love, mercy, and grace with one another. They had not attended to backbite, complain about infinitesimal, inconsequential things, but to comfort others and be comforted. These assemblies were a blessing.
In the twenty centuries since that time, haven’t we misplaced that spirit when we assemble? Have we assembled to complain about the lack of comfort? About the color the auditorium walls have been painted? Do we gripe because the one who led prayer needed a haircut, or his hair style was too modern or just so strange? How would our faith survive if we lost everything or discovered that our faith meant torture and a horrendous death?
What’s your gripe?